Dialogue is in finding and walking with our similarities in spite our differences. But dialogue is also celebrating our differences which gives greater life and light and brings about surprises and hope. Just like Shwebo who saw me as a Filipino “ponjee” or monk, I also see him and Myanmar through my eyes that understands the world through my worldview shaped by my faith and experience. In the dialogue of life, we are the gifts we bring to each other. Dialogue is the act of giving and receiving gifts. This journey has just began.
On the same day, Anthony’s family invited me to dinner. He told me they wanted to meet me. One of them was Anthony’s Aunt Rosa – she speaks Tidim but very little Burmese or English and she kept repeating to me, “Good, good, good. I am sorry!” Michael told me she wanted to talk to me but she does not know how in English. Around 5:00 pm people started coming in and I was introduced to each family member. Anthony has a big family. Like Filipinos, families are extended to the brothers and sisters of one’s parents on both sides and their families. It was just like being at home. The youngest is little Francis, the adorable baby. Anthony and his family belong to the Zomi peoples specifically the Tidim group. They speak a unique language and possess a culture similar to the neighboring hill tribes of India, the Naga people and northern Myanmar, Kachins.
Shwebo’s monastery is a two – story house. The house door was open wide and we found his teacher sleeping inside. He gently woke him. We sat and they offered us water. The very first thing he wanted to show us was his collection of books so he took us to the second floor. They were mostly written in Burmese and a few in English. He had no other clothes except the robe he is wearing and an unopened package of new cotton robe, a gift from a friend. The room is big but there are no divisions except for the little room where an altar is kept. I pointed to the bed and asked him if that is where he sleeps. He replied and pointed to the floor, “I am the youngest monk here and that is where I sleep.”
Lola passed away a few days ago – at a very young age of 96 years. Age has taken toll of her body but not her spirit. She remained feisty and strong. I had fun talking to her the last time I saw her. At my ordination, she came dressed in her white dress – like a little girl. I had to talk her that they had to go since she didn’t want to leave.
Stupas, temples, Buddha statues and more – that is Ayutthaya Historical Park and the throng of tourists that march their way through the numerous temples is hypnotic. But what stuck with me is our encounter with a baby elephant, well probably a teener and with an elderly Buddhist monk. After seeing so much of the temples, we decided to head to the Elephant Palace where one can ride or feed the elephants. The curious boy in me wanted to see an elephant, although I have seen one in captive at extremely bad condition in Manila Zoo, Mali – the lonely elephant.
This is Bangkok rush just like the short trip I have here in Thailand – it was a rush. I arrived here last Monday straight from a two – week exposure in another Southeast Asian country, Myanmar, formerly Burma.
Working for about 5 years, I sat before a desktop computer most of the time making reports and presentations and on my lucky days be out in the field. I am grateful for the experience and lessons I learned working with them. I have no complaints because I loved my work. But eventually I was looking for more – a way of life I’ve always dreamt of as a young boy.
So I decided to ditch my desk and leave a promising career in government service for a much more simple life that of a missionary.
The parish church of Jimenez is considered a national heritage building one of only two from Mindanao, the other is in Jasaan (next stop). It is said to be the best preserved heritage church in Mindanao. This unique church (so much different compared to the typical Spanish era churches in the rest of the country) is listed as one of 26 colonial churches considered as National Cultural Treasure and one of two from Mindanao (the other is in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental). Constructed by the Augustinian Recollects in the second half of the 19th century. It’s patron is St. John the Baptist and the parish is part of the Archdiocese of Ozamiz.
My journey did not begin the moment I was ordained, as a young boy I dreamed of becoming a priest, one day able to raise the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. The shoes I wore during my ordination was the last pair of black shoes my father bought for me. I continue to wear it today every time I celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Fathers you play an important role.
The young people are not problems to be solved, not mere objects of the church. They are the church, too. And when young people consider the church, home, I feel we have truly become the church Jesus intended us to be – a home for every one. A comment from a young person that continues to stick with me is that “God does not always give what we want but God always give what we need.” And I believe the church is God’s response to our need. That comment of the young boy who said, “Ang simbahan po para sa akin ay tahanan hindi tulad sa bahay.” He said that “The church is like a home for me not like the house I live in.” – is a reminder to us adults to welcome every young person just like how Jesus welcomed every child who came to Him, a reminder for us to be a home to everyone.
Life can be full of pain, suffering, wounds and challenges. But these too shall pass. Jesus does not want us to end our little while on earth with regrets saying, “I could have had…” rather He wants us to live out our little while here on earth fully and that we may find joy to the fullest in Him. And return this little while – this gift to God like the servants in the parable who doubled what the master had entrusted to them. He said to His disciples and he continues to say to us: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices: you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” Your sorrow will turn to joy.
Pope Francis addressed some young people recently. He said, “Happiness has no price.” Like happiness, I believe peace has also no price. Pope Francis added, “It cannot be bought; it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”
I just want to love To love without care To be madly in love To have an affair. We make mess God makes beautiful We are a beautiful mess To a God who is merciful. To have an affair with our God To the world, a scandal He cannot wait, God Towards you, he runs…